Science Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

podcastWant to get a little smarter during your commute? Podcasts are a great way to stay entertained during rush hour, and these specific podcasts may even teach you something you never knew before. Check out these podcasts that are sure to entertain, make you laugh, and keep your current no the cutting-edge of science.

ECS Podcast
Did you know that we regularly produce a podcast? Through the ECS Podcast, we sit down with some of the top scientists in the world and attempt to connect the dots between the science, our everyday lives, and the sustainability of the planet. Listen and download all of our episodes for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.
Listen to:Esther Takeuchi on Engineering Life-Saving Batteries

Inquiring Minds
Each week, the team at Inquiring Minds explores the area where science, politics, and society collides. Experts discuss and analyze the most probing scientific headlines of the week and attempt to see what is true and what is yet to be discovered.
Listen to:The Power of Wearable Technology

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Big Energy Boost for Small Electronics

Yarn made of niobium nanowires can be used to make very efficient supercapacitors.Image: MIT

Yarn made of niobium nanowires can be used to make very efficient supercapacitors.
Image: MIT

With the recent surge in wearable electronics, researchers and looking for a way to get larger amounts of power to these tiny devices. Due to the limited size of these devices, it is difficult to transmit data via the small battery.

Now, MIT researchers have found a way to solve this issue by developing an approach that can deliver short but big bursts of power to small devices. The development has the potential to affect more than wearable electronics through its ability to deliver high power in small volumes to larger-scale applications. The key to this new development is the team’s novel supercapacitor.

This from MIT:

The new approach uses yarns, made from nanowires of the element niobium, as the electrodes in tiny supercapacitors (which are essentially pairs of electrically conducting fibers with an insulator between). In this new work, [Seyed M. Mirvakili] and his colleagues have shown that desirable characteristics for such devices, such as high power density, are not unique to carbon-based nanoparticles, and that niobium nanowire yarn is a promising an alternative.

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Member Spotlight – Chennupati Jagadish

jagadishECS Fellow Chennupati Jagadish has been awarded the IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award for his outstanding contributions to compound semiconductor nanowire and quantum dot optoelectronics.

Dr. Jagadish is a Laureate Fellow and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University, where he has made major advances in compound semiconductor quantum dot and nanowire growth techniques and optoelectronic devices.

Previously, Dr. Jagadish was awarded the ECS Electronics and Photonics Division Award for his excellence in electronics research outstanding technical contribution to the field of electronics science.

Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Jagadish has published more than 620 research papers—some of which can be found in the Digital Library—and has 5 U.S. patents.

Some of Dr. Jagadish’s current research focuses on nanostructured photovoltaics, which provides novel concepts to produce a more efficient solar cell.

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Catalysts Move Away from Platinum

The new catalyst combines platinum and palladium, resulting in high efficiency levels and lower cost.Image: Mavrikakis group, UW-Madison

The new catalyst combines platinum and palladium, resulting in high efficiency levels and lower cost.
Image: Mavrikakis group, UW-Madison

In recent years, platinum has been the leading material in the energy industry. However, platinum is both expensive and scarce.

In order to boost alternative energy solutions, researchers have been searching for a substitute for platinum that will allow for cheaper and equally efficient energy technology.

In order to do this, a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Georgia Institute of Technology are focusing on a new catalyst that combines the more expensive platinum with the less expensive palladium.

This from University of Wisconsin-Madison:

This not only reduces the need for platinum but actually proves significantly more catalytically active than pure platinum in the oxygen reduction reaction, a chemical process key to fuel cell energy applications. The palladium-platinum combination also proves more durable, compounding the advantage of getting more reactivity with less material. Just as importantly, the paper offers a way forward for chemical engineers to design still more new catalysts for a broad range of applications by fine-tuning materials on the atomic scale.

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Solar Energy Conversion Under Dark Conditions

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The new solar cell developed by the University of Texas at Arlington team is more efficient and can store solar energy at night.
Image: UT Arlington

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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Li-Ion Battery with Double the Life

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.Source: Nature Communications

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.
Source: Nature Communications

Researchers from various institutes across Korea have found a way to nearly double the life of the lithium-ion battery.

In an ever-pressing race to create a more efficient and longer-lasting battery for electronics, researchers across the globe are looking toward alternative materials to make the li-ion battery stronger. A team of researchers associated with Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology, including ECS member Jang Wook Choi, have combined silicon and graphene to yield an amazing increase in lithium-ion battery efficiency.

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Graphene’s New Role in Water-Splitting

5592616537473The topics of climate change and the energy crisis are on the minds of many scientists working in the fields of energy storage and conversion. When looking toward the future, the development of more efficient and effective energy storage technologies is critical. Instead of our traditional “carbon cycle,” researchers are beginning to focus on the “hydrogen cycle” as a promising alternative.

With this, there been a lot of focus on water-splitting techniques. However, there are many challenges that this technology has to overcome before it reaches efficient levels on a large scale.

In order to help address complications associated with water-splitting, ECS member Qiang Zhang is leading a research group from Tsinghua University to help get closer to the ultimate goal of the “hydrogen cycle” by developing a novel graphene/metal hydroxide composite with superior oxygen evolution activity.

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Graphene Flexes Its Electronic Muscles

Carbon nanotubes, seamless cylinders of graphene, do not display a total dipole moment. While not zero, the vector-induced moments cancel each other out.Rice University

Carbon nanotubes, seamless cylinders of graphene, do not display a total dipole moment. While not zero, the vector-induced moments cancel each other out.
Image: Rice University

Theoretical physicist at both Rice University and institutes in Russia have concluded that the best way to control graphene’s electrical qualities is to flex the material.

Rice University’s Boris Yakobson and his lab are collaborating with Moscow researchers to calculate the electrical properties of nanocones, which should be universal for other forms of graphene.

(PS: You can take a look at some of Yakobson’s past meeting abstracts in the Digital Library.)

This from Rice University:

The researchers discovered it may be possible to access what they call an electronic flexoelectric effect in which the electronic properties of a sheet of graphene can be manipulated simply by twisting it a certain way. The work will be of interest to those considering graphene elements in flexible touchscreens or memories that store bits by controlling electric dipole moments of carbon atoms, the researchers said.

Read the full article here.

“While the dipole moment is zero for flat graphene or cylindrical nanotubes, in between there is a family of cones, actually produced in laboratories, whose dipole moments are significant and scale linearly with cone length,” Yakobson said.

ICYMI: Check out our podcast, “A Word About Nanocarbons,” featuring another Rice University carbon nanotube expert, Dr. Bruce Weisman.

Interested in carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and nanocarbons? Make sure to check out ECS’s Nanocarbons Division!

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Nanogenerator Harvests Power from Tires

During initial trials, the team tested the nanogenerator's capabilities on a toy car with LED lights.Image: UW-Madison College of Engineering

During initial trials, the team tested the nanogenerator’s capabilities on a toy car with LED lights.
Image: UW-Madison College of Engineering

Earlier this year, the company Goodyear announced its concept of a tire that can harvest heat in a variety of ways to help power electric vehicles. Since then, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been hard at work on their own accord to develop a tire that can harvest the typically wasted power produced from friction.

A team of UW-Madison researchers got together, led by Dr. Xudong Wang, to develop a nanogenerator that has the ability to harvest the energy from a car’s rolling tire friction, which will potentially make care tires a much more efficient product.

Find the paper in the journal Nano Energy, and take a look at Wang’s past paper, “3D Nanowire Architectures for Highly-Efficient Photoelectrochemical Anodes,” published in ECS Transactions.

This from UW-Madison:

The nanogenerator relies on the triboelectric effect to harness energy from the changing electric potential between the pavement and a vehicle’s wheels. The triboelectric effect is the electric charge that results from the contact or rubbing together of two dissimilar objects.

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Implantable Drug-Delivery Device to Hit Market

When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip's tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

When an electrical current is delivered to one of the chip’s tiny reservoirs, a single does of therapeutics releases into the body.
Image: MIT/Microchips Biotech

After extensive research, MIT engineers are on their way to commercializing microchips that release therapeutics inside of the body.

The implantable microchip-based device has the potential to outpace injections and conventional pills, changing the landscape of health care and treatment as we know it.

A startup stemming from MIT, Microchips Biotech, developed this technology and has partnered with Teva Pharmaceutical to get these chips into the market. Teva Pharmaceutical is a giant in the industry and the world’s largest producer of generic drugs.

This from MIT:

The microchips consist of hundreds of pinhead-sized reservoirs, each capped with a metal membrane, that store tiny doses of therapeutics or chemicals. An electric current delivered by the device removes the membrane, releasing a single dose. The device can be programmed wirelessly to release individual doses for up to 16 years to treat, for example, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis.

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